CRANDALL — Two hours before race time and dozens of truck-trailer rigs are camped out in the parking lot while others check in at the entrance gate.
Most of the regulars completed their ritual of unloading hours ago and now sit in what little shade they can find while sipping a cold drink or eating a sandwich.
The occasional announcement or the sputtering of a cruising dragster interrupts music from the loudspeakers, but no one seems to care.
Shortly before starting time the competitors begin to stir — topping off the fuel tank, charging the starter, or hooking up the dragster to a four-wheeler or golf cart for a tow to the staging area.
It’s another hot summer Saturday night at Dallas Speedway and the atmosphere tenses in anticipation of the upcoming competition.
For Randy Gay of Tyler and other drag racing enthusiasts like him, there’s just no better way to spend a Saturday night.
Drag racing has been a family tradition in the Gay family for decades beginning with his dad, Wayne, and continuing with himself and his 12-year-old daughter Miranda Leigh.
Randy’s racer is a shiny black car with his signature racing name “Rat On Time” painted on the side.
It seems no two cars are alike in this parking lot. There are modified 1950s models with painted orange and yellow flames; a small pickup with a hood scoop; a fiery red station wagon, plastered with sponsors’ stickers; and even a blue Pinto with shiny chrome pipes.
The wide, fat back tires are obvious signs these types of cars aren’t meant to drive on the average city street.
Of course, there are the elongated dragsters — the ones novices typically envision when they hear the word dragster — but there also are smaller versions, ones the junior dragsters drive.
These half-scale dragsters can reach up to 85 miles per hour, according to the National Hot Rod Association, allow children age 8 to 17 to participate in the sport of speed, concentration, control and reflex.
Contrary to popular belief, drag racing isn’t just about crossing the finish line first. A driver’s reaction time to the green start light also is a factor in deciding a winner.
And drag racing isn’t just a sport for guys.
Of the 4,500 members in the Junior Dragster League, 35 percent are girls, according to NHRA records.
On this particular Saturday night there are about a handful of junior drivers including two girls: Miranda and 17-year-old Jaymie Goodwin of Dallas.
Goodwin said she was influenced by her uncle, dad and stepfather — all racers— and began participating in events when she was 8.
“My friends think it’s kind of strange that a girl would do this kind of thing,” she said. “but they think it’s kind of cool too.”
Goodwin also participates in choir, drill team and dancing at school. At one point in her life she decided to drop out of racing, but quickly learned she couldn’t stay away from it.
“Everything here … well we’re all just like one big happy family,” she said.